Attention to detail key for Terps defensive line during spring practice


(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Andre Monroe spent his offseason in the studio, learning the ins and outs of music software and song creation. The Maryland defensive lineman had grown to love details over time, like how the intricacies of notes and beats could form a banging track, and his Instagram handle reflects his performance name, “dre_smoove,” which is fitting given the effortless way he pummeled quarterbacks last season.

Serving mostly in a backup role, Monroe led the Terrapins with 9.5 sacks, the most by any Maryland player since 2000, and it is through this love for the minutiae that he hopes to improve this spring. In the weight room, he focused on squatting and bench-pressing with proper form. In the classroom, he paid more attention to teachers, then asked for clarification if necessary. On the field, he made sure his hands moved a certain way to optimize technique.

“Basically paying more attention to detail,” he told reporters on Thursday.

In terms of lost production, Maryland’s defensive line begins spring football in solid shape, entering the third year working with this particular 3-4 scheme. Monroe returns alongside starters Darius Kilgo, Keith Bowers and Quinton Jefferson, with Kilgo and Bowers battling for the first-string nose tackle spot. Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart wants one more body added to the rotation, but backup Roman Braglio has enough sub-package experience to slide in nicely.

“Definitely excited to get back on the field,” Jefferson said. “Been a little layover since the bowl game, but it still feels like it hasn’t been that long since we’ve been out there. I know everyone just wants to play, run around again.”

Like the offensive line, written about Thursday, its defensive counterparts will welcome a new positional coach while returning most of its contributors. Arriving from Ball State, Chad Wilt inherits a group that only lost Zeke Riser, a graduate transfer who played in more games (nine) than he had tackles (seven).

In replacing Greg Gattuso, who now coaches at Albany, Wilt brought a youthful exuberance to the meeting room, but hasn’t made any sweeping changes aside from implementing an outsider’s perspective to his new players.

“The defensive line, you can only do so much,” Jefferson said. “But he brings a lot of energy, tweaking our techniques a little bit more because he’s an outside view coming in, so maybe he’s been observing us a little bit more without knowing us.”

Also like the offensive line with its new coach, Greg Studrawa, the defensive linemen won’t receive the full experience until practices begin Saturday at 10 a.m.

“It’s kind of like he just slid on in,” Monroe said. “It’s great, because one thing that stands out about him is he definitely has a lot of energy. We’ve seen it off the field, in meetings, just walking around. Now it’s going to be interesting to see how we see that on the field, when he brings that energy to the field. I kind of can’t wait.”

Once spring football officially begins, the unit’s stability ensures the players can focus on improving technical aspects of their game. Competition will still be present, like it is at every position, but both Jefferson and Monroe emphasized the need for more meticulous improvement.

“First of all, as a unit, I think we’re focusing on once again paying more attention to detail, execution without error, minimizing our mistakes,” Monroe said. “I felt that was definitely something we need to improve on, whether that’s tackling or hitting the right holes, things like that.”

Said Jefferson: “Most definitely we have to work on our hands more and our feet. I know last year we were good at it at first then we kind of fell off towards the end of the year. We want to have our [foot]work stand out. The low man wins.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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